More reports on: Pfizer, Novartis

Novartis to take on Pfizer's Ibrance with Ribociclib for breast cancer

10 October 2016

An experimental Novartis AG treatment for a form of advanced breast cancer is found to be effective in cutting the risks of death and disease progression. The Swiss drugmaker is now seeking regulatory approval in the US and Europe by the end of the year.

According to Alessandro Riva, global head of oncology development and medical affairs at the company, who spoke in a telephone interview, the first approval for the drug was expected next year, Bloomberg reported.

The Basel-based company said on Saturday, Ribociclib, in combination with the older breast-cancer medicine letrozole, cut the risk of worsening or death by 44 per cent over letrozole alone in a study of more than 600 people.

Over 50 per cent of the women taking both medicines saw their tumour size shrink by at least 30 per cent. The study results, presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Copenhagen, followed the US Food and Drug Administration's decision in August to designate ribociclib as a breakthrough therapy.

According to commentators, Novartis was playing catch up to Pfizer Inc, whose rival medicine Ibrance might generate sales of $2.16 billion this year as per analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Ribociclib, or LEE011 sales according to analysts' forecasts might reach $1 billion by 2020.

Novartis' ribociclib worked in a similar way to Ibrance and would be the second to be marketed in the category. It was expected to go on sale next year, ahead of Eli Lilly's rival abemaciclib.

The 44-per cent reduction in progression-free survival seen with ribociclib, compared with a 42 per cent fall reported in a comparable late-stage trial involving Ibrance.

According to lead researcher Gabriel Hortobagyi of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the two drugs had similar results both in terms of their efficacy and side effects.

"This is a practice-changing study and when it (ribociclib) is approved by the appropriate regulatory agencies it will be one of the major choices," he told reporters.

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